All Saints November 1 2020
Revelation 7:9-17, Psalm 34:1-10, 22, 1 John 3:1-3, Matthew 5:1-12
Struggling, striving, to be one too. I love this day, I feel so connected to the cloud of witnesses, the communion of saints. Why do I feel All Saints so deeply? I don’t think it’s because I want to be a saint, or I think I have any degree of perfection. It’s because I want to be among those who follow Jesus, I want to be among those who stand up for love, and compassion, and mercy, and I know I cannot do that alone. I listen to these names, names of the long dead and names of the recently dead, and I wonder, do I measure up? Do I act justly when the time comes, am I merciful in judgment, can I be compassionate when I with those with whom I passionately disagree?
This cloud of witnesses helps me along, holds me up, keeps me accountable, makes me want to do better. Each one of these in this cloud of witnesses changed their particular piece of the world, not necessarily by doing fabulous, extravagant things, but by stepping into the space in which they were needed, when called. By stepping up to love. By using their voice and being brave. Not heroic, but faithful.
Do you have saints in your life? Not perfect people, people perfectly loved. There’s a piece by Linda Hogan, an indigenous writer, who is currently the Chickasaw Nation's Writer in Residence. And at All Saints time it lands on me with all sorts of sense and wonder. She has written, “Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. ‘Be still’ they say. ‘Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.’”
That empowers me, emboldens me to put one foot in front of the other, each day, and speak love into dark and lonely spaces, and there have definitely been some dark and lonely spaces in these past months. It feels like my voice joins all the voices before me, and together we sing a song of the saints of God. Because being a saint is not about being superhuman. It may be about having a super power though. The super power of love, the super power of the love of all those who have gone before us to show us the way, and those who will come after us to carry on.
I wonder about the saints we named today, and so many others whom we did not name. I wonder if they knew they were a saint, or if all they knew was God’s love for them and for others. I think they didn’t know they were saints. I think they were just like you and me. I think they took seriously the call to love God, and to love one another. I think they woke up in the morning, just like you and me, and asked God to help them carry Jesus’ light into all the dark places of their lives.
Who are the saints you know, and have known? Not perfect people. But people putting one foot in front of the other and stepping into the space of love and bringing the light of Jesus with them. I think a lot about my mom who died nearly six years ago now. My mom wasn’t perfect, she was as ornery as an Irish woman comes. There was always room at my mother’s table. Even if she didn’t like you, you got fed. She prepared meals at church, and put on quite a spread for funeral luncheons. And for years she was in charge of the Loaves and Fishes meal once a month. Mom would never consider herself any more than a person that said yes to pitching in and helping. She never thought of herself as brave or courageous, or particularly compassionate. But she stepped up when she heard the call, often it was the call on the telephone… we need you to….bring a hotdish, we need you to… be in be president of the women’s club…we need you.
I think what’s really true is that the phone call, or these days the email, is much louder than God’s still, small voice. And stepping into the space of love and compassion, responding to God’s call, is much more like providing a meal, or wearing a mask, or sticking with your pod, than it is about saving the world.
If we are indeed the result of the love of thousands, which I believe we are, then what is the task we bear today? It’s not about heroics, but definitely the super powers of love and compassion. We are the saints of God; we are the ones who give rise to the thousands who come after us. Our task today is to follow Jesus. Our call is to Love God, love others, show it. Getting up every morning, giving thanks for the day, putting one foot in front of the other, and shining the Christ light into all of the dark places, makes a difference. We are joined together, we are joined with the cloud of witnesses, and our witness matters, our actions matter. They lived not only in ages past; there are hundreds of thousands still; the world is bright with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus’ will. You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea, in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea; for the saints of God are just folk like me, and I mean to be one too.